August is the month that darkness returns. For the sky to be completely dark, the Sun must get at least 18 degrees below the horizon. On 1st August this happens at 00:44 and lasts until 02:26, giving 1 hour 42 mins of darkness. By the end of August this has stretched to 5 hours 48 mins. August is also famous for the Perseid meteor shower which you can read more about below. You may still spot noctilucent clouds. They can be seen some evenings shining in the north after sunset and before sunrise but it is at the end of the season for them. I have another post about noctilucent clouds and the link is below:
Sun and Moon
|Date||Sunrise (Irish Time)||Sunset (Irish Time)|
Make sure the Sun has set before looking for Mercury. It will be very hard to see this month. It might be possible to catch a glimpse of it before sunrise very early in the month.
August is a great month to spot Venus. The only catch is that you will have to stay up very late or get up very early. It rises about 3 hours before sunrise and will be extremely bright in the East. It will be unmistakable. If you can see it through a small telescope it will look just less than half illuminated at the start of the month, and then about 60% illuminated by the end of the month.
Mars is getting better all the time. It rises around 23:45 at the start of the month. You’ll see it in the East, early in the night, moving towards the west as the night goes on. At the end of August Mars will rise before sunset and will be visible all night. It will appear as a salmon- pink colour star.
Jupiter remains well placed in August. It is already risen when darkness falls. At the start of the month it sets around 3.30am and by the end of the month it sets at 1am. It will be a bright star in the South.
Saturn is visible close to Jupiter, it is also risen before darkness falls. At the start of the month it sets around 4am and by the end of the month it sets at 1.45am. It will be a bright star in the South.
Perseid Meteor Shower
The Perseid meteor shower peak happens in early August each year. It is quite a reliable shower and normally if the clouds clear, the weather is warm enough that you can go outside and watch them in relative comfort. This year the peak happens between 14.00 and 17.00 (Irish time) on the 12th August. This of course means that the peak happens during the day. Therefore, the best time to watch them is the nights of 11/12 August and 12/13 August.
To watch the Perseids, make yourself comfortable. A sun lounger or hammock is ideal. Also make sure you are warm, a sleeping bag can be very useful for this, as are hot drinks such as tea or hot chocolate! You can look in any direction, but try to look away from the Moon and if you can block the Moon behind a tree, fence or wall. Otherwise, the glare will affect the number you will see.
Stars and Constellations
The above sky chart is for 00:00 on 15/08/2020. You can click on the chart to open a new tab and bring you to Heavens Above. On this website you can generate a custom chart for the time and date you wish. The spring constellations of Leo (the lion), Bootes (the herdsman) and Virgo (the virgin) are now setting in the West.
High overhead are Cygnus (the swan), Lyra (the liar) and Aquila (the eagle). The brightest stars in these constellations are Deneb, Vega and Altair and they make up the Summer Triangle and is a true sign that we are in the middle of Summer. The misty path of the Milky Way also runs through this area of sky.
In the South at this time of year, is the constellation of Scorpius (the scorpion). This is the direction of the centre of our galaxy, the Milky Way. It never rises very high in the sky from Ireland, but if you look in the direction you should be able to make out that it is almost misty or milky with stars.
Some of the Autumn constellations of Pegasus, Pisces and Perseus are rising in the East.